Applying to companies

Applying to the companies is the first step in the interview process. It sounds simple, but in reality, it can be a pretty random and complicated part.

Applying and getting to the interviews is an art of its own. Sometimes you have to wait for the response for weeks, sometimes you get rejected without any obvious reasons, sometimes you don't even get any answer back. Remember that it often doesn't really depend on you. Recruiters may have forgotten or neglected your case, the company could not hire during this particular period for some reason, or you just got unlucky. Be patient, and remember that it is a long game.

When to apply

The interview process can take months. So if you want to interview, apply early. After you get connected to the recruiter, you can often ask for as much time as you want – even months – for the preparation before the first interview round.

On the other hand, getting connected to the recruiter can take a long time, so applying at the last minute can not work out.

How to apply

Companies have career pages on their website where you can browse teams and open positions, and apply for the job. Use these to look at what teams and positions are available, but applying there is not really effective – thousands or millions of people use this page as well, and there are just too many applicants.

So how to apply instead? Use referrals.

Referrals

A referral is when a person working in the company submits your application (usually resume and some extra information) to the recruiters. This person basically recommends you for some positions at the company.

In the case of referrals, the number of applicants is much smaller, and recruiters actually look at each application very carefully, so the chances of getting to the interviews are much higher. As long as your resume is decent and the company is hiring, you are very likely to get to the interviews.

A referral is basically the best way to apply to any company. Find friends and friends of friends who work in the company you want, and ask them for the referral. They will usually be glad to help.

Actually, in most big companies, people working there get a monetary bonus for successful referrals (when the applicant gets a job). These bonuses can be quite big, in the range of thousands of dollars. So, most people are very glad to refer somebody – you help a person to potentially get a job, and may get a lot of money for it, so why not?

This also means that you shouldn't be too shy asking somebody for a referral. Ask a friend, a friend of a friend, or even somebody that you kind of know, but never talked to. As long as you are polite, referrals are mutually beneficial, and most people are glad to help. It also usually takes about 5-10 minutes to refer somebody.

Apply to many companies

Since preparing for the interviews is a big investment of your time and energy, it totally makes sense to apply to many companies at the same time. This way you will have more chances to succeed, and with multiple offers at hand, you can also negotiate better compensation.

Also, you need to be "in shape" to successfully pass your interviews, so scheduling them around the same time will help you to do them all at your peak form.

Where to apply

Which companies to apply to? The short answer would be to apply to all that you can. More applications mean more chances to succeed, and you can even use interviews with companies that are less interesting to you as a kind of interview practice.

Look for the companies and teams that you find interesting, and for the locations where you want to live.

Here is also a list of top global companies where you should apply and where there is a good chance of getting to the interviews. Most of these companies have offices in several countries.

GoogleUberAirbnbSpotify
FacebookLinkedinMicrosoftYandex
AmazonTwitterYelpBooking

You should also research the company you are applying to. This will help you to learn the company better to see if it is a good fit for you, and knowing the company well will also help you in the interviews. Apart from the usual Google and Wikipedia, here are some helpful links:

  • Glassdoor is a platform with employee reviews and other details for different companies.
  • Blind is an app and a website where employees anonymously discuss their companies and a wide variety of other topics.
  • Levels.fyi – here you can compare levels and compensation in different companies.

Other ways to apply

  • Keep your LinkedIn updated. It is a good way to look for open positions and to get contacted by the recruiters.
  • AngelList is a great platform to look for open positions at startups around the globe.

Application specifics

When I was applying for the interviews, I noticed that your process depends on your level of experience:

  • Students and recent grads usually can only apply to internships and new grad positions respectively.
  • Experienced people, with 3-5+ years of experience, usually can get interviews almost anywhere.
  • A lot of positions require something like 3+ years of experience, so with 1-2 years of experience you fall somewhere in between of the two cases above, and your choice can be somewhat limited. It may be harder to get to the interviews, especially at smaller companies.

Generally, it is also harder to get interviews with small companies because they don't have as many employees. And if you are applying to the company in another country, big companies are also much more likely to consider you and to help with the visa and other immigration procedures.

Action Items
1. Create a list of the companies that you plan to apply to.
Create a list of the companies that you plan to apply to. Include top tech companies, but also try to include several startups and smaller companies that are interesting to you.

Many people also create some kind of a list or a spreadsheet where they track the companies they apply to and the current status of the process. You can also try this and see how it works for you!
2. Think about how to get referrals.
Referrals are the best way to apply to the companies, so it's important to get them for all the companies you want to apply to. Think who can help you with referrals (friends, friends of friends?), and start contacting them.
3. Try using LinkedIn and AngelList to apply to more companies.
LinkedIn and AngelList can be very helpful in applying to the companies – you can find a lot of interesting companies and startups you didn't even know about before.

Fill out your profile on both websites and start browsing for interesting opportunities. Often you will also need to have an up-to-date resume, which we will cover in detail in the next section.